MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From the murder of George Floyd to the recent death of a 6-year-old girl from gun violence, Minneapolis has experienced one trauma after another this past year.

The city’s Office of Violence Prevention formed in late 2018, but the work really got underway a year later. Its director Sasha Cotton shared efforts to prevent violence, and what’s on the horizon. The office says it aims to prevent violence, intervene and help heal after it occurs.

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Much of the work happens behind the scenes, says Cotton.

“Really thinking about the cycle of violence, recognizing that hurt people hurt people,” Cotton said.

The office funds a program called Next Step. It meets victims in the hospital, addressing intervention and offering wide-ranging support.

“We know that program is working to reduce harm,” Cotton said.

Cotton says the office helps fund and support organizations already working in prevention, and points to one of the most visible ways: through violence interrupters.

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T.O.U.C.H. Outreach was part of a city pilot program that’s about to expand. Muhammad Abdul-Ahad says they know they prevented violence.

“When you have a group of men and women who’s showing up, as a collective out there saying ‘No,’ that gives a person time to think to change their mind from what they’re about to do,” Cotton said.

Tra Pollard, with We Push For Peace, wants a year-round commitment to address violence prevention.

“We have to do this work as long as there’s violence. That’s all year round, so we should be working all year round,” Pollard said.

Cotton says confronting what she calls a public health crisis numerous ways will be critical to making an impact.

“Our community deserves better. We have to step up, we have to do better, more different, to give Minneapolis the peace that it deserves,” Cotton said.

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The city tripled the budget for the Office of Violence Prevention in the last year. Almost half of it, $3 million, will go to fund six teams of violence interrupters. We’re told they’re going through training now, and will be on the street next month.

Jennifer Mayerle